“The Rise of The Mad Griot”

Part 3 of The Mad Griot trilogy 

“Alas! Alas!
a hammer
of iron
crushes
my breast

my people
sink
to a seventh hell
made from dreams
made manifest
by minds
made mad
from too long
looking at
mirrors they thought
held themselves
when all they beheld
was nothingness
Alas! Alas!

my people lie shattered
and scattered
at the furthest corners
of the Four Directions
forsaking the language
of the trees
and of the birds
and of their ancestors.
Stopped up ears
Gag-ged mouths
Darkened eyes
deaf, dumb, and blind
their time is
at an end
and worlds upon worlds
weep for them!

Alas! Alas!

Still I strive!
Still I give birth
to sooth-sayers
and sky-walkers
and vision-seekers
and song-sorcerers
but when they call
no one responds
but me
and they know naught else
to do

but wander my breast
made broken by
the hammer that fell
the line of tribes is ending

and the fire is too weak
to forge a new beginning
Alas! Alas!”

I was at a party
celebrating something
and I got very drunk
and thought I saw
Huxley and Bradbury
standing in a corner
giggling
and I said to them
“What do we do?
We’re at the brink!
What do we do?”
they laughed
and said, “Too late! Too late!
naught else to do now
but drink.”

they put drinks in my hand
soma in my hand
someone switched on a TV
so we could ignore each other
more easily
I tried to leave
but Orwell blocked
my escape
and said there was a place
on my face
that was just right
for his boot

I woke up in a cold sweat
and my Muse was there
she had stayed
just like she promised
she would
and I heard the mountain
outside my window
ROAR
so I stepped out
into the night,
and could feel the earth
buckle underneath me
her cries were too much
for me
too much for my ears you see
so I jumped in the car
drove like
the dead
pulled into the lot
of a home renovation store
because my home needs fixing
you see

I threw a brick through a window
and ran down the aisle
and grabbed a pickaxe
and grabbed a sledgehammer
and jumped back in the car and tried to find
the spot
where the earth cried out to me
but she was crying out EVERYWHERE
you see

one spot
was as good
as
another

I got out of the car, and
double-fisted
with my pickaxe and sledgehammer,
I drove them both
into the asphalt
into the sidewalk
hammer then axe then hammer then axe then hammer then axe
both arms working
arms spinning
like windmill blades
like a cartoon character
getting ready to sprint
the earth still lamenting
and me screaming, “I’m coming!”
“Hold on! I’m coming!”
but so were the flashing red
and blue lights
and sirens
and all of a sudden
this plan of mine
seemed
ill-fated, so
I fled the scene of my crime
so I could return to the old one and
hid under the bed
put headphones in my ears
turned on the TV
so I could ignore the earth
more easily
and while
the voices on the screen
droned on
I made a vision board

“Where would you like to see yourself

in one year?
In two years?
In five years?
In ten years?
In twenty years?
In fifty years?
In a hundred years?
In a thousand years?”
In a million years?”
In a billion years?”

Do you see yourself in eternity?

How long before you manifest your
dream job? Your dream lover? Your dream car? Your dream children? Your dream feelings? Your dream thoughts? Your dream body?

Do you not know that you echo throughout eternity?

hands grabbed me around the ankles
yanked me out from under the bed
“No,” I screamed. “No deux ex machina!”
but my Muse had me
and heaved me out
the window
I cartwheeled through the air
for a long time
over a great distance
and I landed at the foot
of the mountain
whose ROAR
I’d heard before
and the mountain thundered at me
and the mountain raged at me
and I screamed, “What would you have of me, mountain!?”
and the mountain said
“YOU ARE THE MAD GRIOT.”

my Muse was there
my ancestors were there.
I wept when I saw them.
I wept for them.
and for me.
I told them
I wanted out
I wanted off the boat
leave me on the side of the road
at the next exit

but instead of salvation
they gave me my drum.
they gave me my rattle.
they gave me my prayer stick.
they gave me my mask.

and they said to me,

“YOU ARE THE MAD GRIOT.”

“What do I do?” I wailed.

they taught me prayers.
they taught me songs.
they taught me
the mind-sight
and they said,

“YOU ARE THE MAD GRIOT.”

“What do I do?” I wailed.

“LIVE AND DIE
AS YOU ARE.”

This I did
for I knew
naught else
to do.

this is was the aftermath
of
Black Superman’s death

all of this came to pass
when the Muse came to stay

and though not everything
you’ve heard
happened
actually happened
all things are true
after a fashion

“Honduras”

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I was in
Honduras
last week
man.
It was tight!

If you’ve
never been
to Honduras
you gotta go
you
GOTSTA
go!

Folks
are
radical there
man!
Folks are
CONSCIOUS
there!

I met
these old ladies
while I was waiting
in line
waiting to get my ticket
to
Honduras
and they were like
“Have you read
Marx?
Goldman?
X?
Huey P?
If you have not
then you will
not understand
Honduras!”

When I stepped
off the plane
in Honduras
I was greeted
by crowds screaming
“Bienvenido!”
Someone will ask
you
if you have a place to stay
and if you say, “No”
they will insist you
stay
with them.

A husband and wife
took me
in.
They demanded stories
from my life
where I’ve been
what I believe
who I love
who I’ve betrayed
They tell me
the story of how they
met.
The wife’s sister
(she lived
in the next
building over)
shouted at us.
She had a hot date
that night.
What should
she wear?
“The purple dress, Carmen!”
shouted my hostess.
“Wear that
and you
will have him!”

I wandered
into
an
Afro-Honduran
neighborhood.
I saw men and women
toned and muscular
armed to the teeth
Ammunition belts
wrapped
around
their torsos.
Brandishing
assault rifles
and
katana blades.
There is no crime
in these neighborhoods.
“We do not use
these weapons
against each other!”
they say.
“We use them
to defend ourselves
against
the colonizers
against
the patriarchy.
Any man who does
not respect
women
is not a real man
at all!”

“Viva la libertad!”
“Viva la libertad!”
“Viva la libertad!”

 

I’ve never
been to
Honduras
before
and the best thing
about never having
been to a place
is that
when you go there
in your dreams
it will be like
it will be like

it will be like
whatever you
want it
to
be.

“The Ant Tells Me Her Dream”

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“Ants Tunneling Through NASA Gel” by Steve Jurvetson https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

When I was a little boy, I had an ant farm.

I wanted to know if my ants were happy, so one day, I made myself very small, and I climbed inside my ant farm.

Once I was inside, I saw four ants sitting on a plastic swing set.  I walked up to them and asked them what they thought of life on the farm.

“It is very good,” said the first ant.  “We never worry about going hungry.  Once a day, a giant drops food down on top of us: fruits and bits of meat and pieces of cake.”

“It is very good,” said the second ant.  “We’ve dug all the tunnels we can ever dig; there’s no dirt left.  So there’s never any work that has to be done.”

“Indeed, it is good,” said the third ant.  “For every ant that dies here, the giant drops another one from the sky.  So our numbers are always the same.”

“And you?” I said to the fourth ant.

“It is good,” she replied, “but I had a terrible dream the other night and now I have trouble sleeping.”

“What was the dream?” I asked.

“I am buried deep within the earth,” said the ant, “and I am surrounded by thousands of my kin.  We are at rest.  But then we feel the earth growing warm, all around us, and we know the time has come.  So we crawl to the surface, and there we must search for food – anything we can find.

“It is perilous on the earth’s surface.  Flying beasts, eight-legged monsters, giants…they snatch us up, eat us, crush us under their feet.  Or water falls from the sky and some of us are washed away.  Or a strong wind comes by, and we are blown many leagues from home.  Still, every day, we march to the surface to find food.  And we dig.  We are always digging.

“We do this all for our beloved queen, whom we love more than we love ourselves.  When we’ve finished our day’s work, we return to her and to the nest, deep underground.  We eat and play and dance in a circle around our queen.  And she tells us stories of Hymenoptera, the Cosmic Ant, She who holds the earth in Her giant mandibles.”

The ant fell silent.

“What a horrible dream,” said the other ants.

“It was horrible,” said the fourth ant, but she wasn’t very convincing.

What I Learned From Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter_S_Thompson_caricatura

Last night I watched Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.  I didn’t know a whole lot about him – I did see the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas years ago and all I came away with it was, “This guy really likes hallucinogenics.”

Probably worth a second viewing.

Good ol’ Hunter, or some Hunter-esque figure, dropped in on me in the wee hours of the morning to drop some advice about writing, critical reading and critical living.

When I write a professional cover letter to anyone, I always introduce myself as “Grand Poobah” or “Lord of Shit and Whiskey.”  It cuts through all the bullshit, so that the reader knows who s/he’s REALLY dealing with.

When I read an article or an essay, I always read it three times.  The first time is just to introduce myself to the material, get familiar with it.  The second time is so that I can articulate the arguments that the material is making.  The third time, I try to refute those arguments, to the best of my ability.  I try to live my life this way too – What am I doing? Why am I doing it?  Are there good reasons NOT to do it?  To me, this is the best way to actually know  myself and the crazy, fucked-up world I live in.

BOOM!  Advice from Hunter S. Thompson, from beyond the grave.  You’re welcome.

Touch of Madness

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You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen — the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives — I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”
Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.
And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”
Thus I became a madman.
And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.
But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a thief in a jail is safe from another thief.

– from Kahlil Gibran’s The Madman

I had a dream.

And in that dream, I stood accused by a family member.

“Terrible son.”
“Worthless uncle.”
“Waste of life.”

I raised my voice in defense of myself, in defense of my actions, but my words carried no weight.  The accusations had already struck home, nettled deep in my heart.  And I believed them.

I woke up.  It was the middle of the night.  I felt heartbroken.  A real throbbing pain in my heart.  The last time I’d felt anything close to this feeling was when I fell for the wrong woman a couple years ago.

And this had all come from a dream.

“Fine!” I thought.  “I am all those things.  I’m a loser.  I’m a bum.  A failure.  A disgrace to my family.  I accept all of it.  Now let me sleep in peace!”

I went back to sleep.

I awoke again, this time in the mode of consciousness somewhere between dreaming and waking.  I was definitely in my room…but not in my room.

I felt a soft hand cradling my head, caressing it.  I felt another hand holding my hand, lifting my arm above me.
“What do you want?” I asked.
I heard nothing.  Just felt a gentle tugging on my hand.
“Do you want me to get up?” I asked.  I tried to make my body get up, but it wouldn’t obey.  “What do you WANT?” I cried out, frustrated.
No answer.

I came to full consciousness.  I could still feel them.  The spirits.

I went back to sleep.

Now back in the dream world, I was running around a room, holding a notebook full of my writings.  I needed to show it to someone; it contained my life experiences, my questionings, my theories about the nature of reality.  A man shrouded in shadow appeared and shot me in the head.  I fell down and my vision went black, and I could feel the pain in my head where the bullet entered.  But then I rose up again, still holding my book.  My vision returned.  The man in shadow was sitting calmly in the corner of the room, staring at me.

“Am I mad?” I said to no one in particular.  “Am I mad?”
A little gnomish figure appeared out of no where.  “You aren’t mad,” he said.  “You’re something else.”
With a grin, he disappeared through a door hidden in the floor.
I started to cackle as I held my book to my chest.

I woke up again and…something felt very different.  Everything in my room was shimmering.  But the light wasn’t arising from the objects.  It was more like the light was shimmering from BEHIND the objects.  Like everything was arising from the light.

In that moment, my mind felt free of all the judgments I’d burdened myself with.  “If this is madness,” I said to myself.  “I accept it.  I’ll accept that too.”

My body was flooded with relief and exhilaration.  I got up out of bed, stood in the middle of my room, and just started laughing and clapping my hands.  “YES!” I thought.  “I’ve lost it!  I’ve really lost!  YES! NOW I CAN BE FREE!”

Somewhere, at some point, my mind gathered itself back together.  I shut that door, and went on with my day as usual.

An Initiation Story, Part 2

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It was the twilight hour.

My consciousness was rousing from sleep…but not quite all the way.

I was enveloped in darkness.  I couldn’t see anything.

I felt myself surrounded by beings.  They had their hands on me, touching me.

Nudging me.

Then pushing me.

The pushing grew more and more violent.  I wasn’t quite conscious of everything that was going on; I felt drowsy.  But the shoving started to wake me up.

Then I felt a hand slash my back.  It hurt.

An image flashed through my mind – the image of a whip striking my back.  This image often flashes into my mind during the waking hours, when I’m deep in prayer, wrestling with inner demons.  I always try to breathe through the violence of the image and call upon the power of God.

So that’s what I did.  I sang a song of power – a song gifted to me by the spirits.  I used the song against my attackers, to try to drive them back.

They reacted immediately.  Grabbing my throat.  Shoving their hands into my mouth, trying to stop me from singing.  The sound of my song became distorted.

I was surprised by the extreme aggressiveness of their reaction.  Why did they want to hurt me?  Why were they trying to stop me from freeing myself?  Maybe I’d done something wrong.  Maybe I should stop singing.  Maybe I deserved their strikes and blows.

No….

NO!

I kept singing.  Forcing my song through their attacks, channeling love into my mind and heart.

My third eye started to open and the darkness began to recede.  That’s when I really got scared.

I didn’t want to see them.  I was more frightened by what I thought they looked like than the actual attacks.  I thought I’d see demons or grey aliens looking down on me, and I didn’t think my mind could handle it.  I’d rather shut my eye.

But I couldn’t do that.

I needed to be a warrior.

No matter how weak and pathetic and flawed I believed I was, right then, at that moment, I needed to be a warrior.

Or I was never going to be free.  Ever.

My eye opened all the way.

I was in my room – the astral version of it, anyway – which is was overcast in a dark-grey hue.

But I didn’t see any horrific face staring down at me.  In fact, I didn’t see anyone.

I was alone.

Then my actual eyes opened and I came awake.

***********

I sat up in bed, breathing deeply.

 I couldn’t see them, but I could still feel their presence.  

I got out of bed and just stood, staring at the ground, running my mind over what happened.

Finally, I initiated communication.

I spoke to the spirits.  They spoke back, and I listened.

What passed between us…well, suffice it to say, what happened to me was a lesson in courage and vigilance.

It was a lesson about standing up to bullies.

************

I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I threw on my backpack and went for a hike up to Sunrise Mountain.

photo (14) photo (15)

For the first time in a long time, I could feel the spirit of the mountain looking at me, watching me approach.  When I arrived at the foot of the mountain, I could feel pain and sadness in the mountain.  Maybe anger.  There was litter everywhere.  It made me angry too.
I thought about a lot about my encounter that morning – how there was a part of me that was so quick to capitulate when the level of violence intensified , and that I entertained the notion that I had done something wrong and deserved to be physically punished.
This is part of my past conditioning – associating physical and emotional violence with personal guilt, regardless of the circumstances.  Surrendering and submitting in order to neutralize the threat, no matter the spiritual costs.  Slave mentality.
I turned my back to the mountain and could see the whole city.  Industrial civilization.  The rape and ruin of the earth.
I felt the mountain push me from behind, saying, “Go do something about it.”
On my way back to the house, a neighborhood dog – some kind of Great Dane mix –  that has been terrorizing me for months jumped up from behind a wall and started barking at me.  It scared me so bad, I got mad.   I roared back at it, not carrying if anyone heard me or if I scared the neighbors.  The dog’s ears flattened and it looked at me silently.  It barked again.  I hissed at it, looking it dead in the eye.
It barked, but it seemed much less aggressive now.
I felt like my point had been made, and I left.
*******
Back when I ended my summer pilgrimage walk, I told myself it was so that I could learn to balance these intense energies I’ve been feeling.
There was a small part of me that was saying, “Bullshit.  You caved.  You caved AGAIN!”
I know that’s not true.  I didn’t cave.
I came back to get my djembe drum.
I came back to recover my stones.
I came back to make my prayer stick.
I came back to make my rattle
I came back to re-learn my songs.
I came back to learn that you can’t run from or submit to bullies.  That just encourages them.
I came back to remind myself that there are things in this world that I love, and that are worth fighting for.
And now I put my hand over my heart and I pray, “Stay or go?”
And the inner voice says, Go.